Bangkok For Beginners

Ah Bangkok. The city that well, didn’t leave much of an impression on me. The city, I, to be honest, am not quite sure I liked. The city that makes me feel like a bit of a failure as a travel blogger because I don’t really know what to say about it.



My distaste for the city may have to do in no small part to my horrendous, cockroach-infested hostel. The first time I used the bathroom there I discovered a cockroach about the size of a kiwi that had me ranting, “I’M CHECKING INTO THE BEST WESTERN.”

And may I say as a musophobic traveler that I’ve never seen rats quite like the ones in Bangkok. Oh. Dear. God. They were enormous and omnipresent, scurrying under food carts and out of sewer grates.

Overall, Bangkok just didn’t feel like a big city to me; it didn’t have the energy of Saigon or the charm of Siem Reap, and its level of filthiness was like nothing I’ve seen before. (Cockroaches, much?)

To be fair, I don’t think I gave the city a fair chance. I missed a lot of the things I was excited about and intend to visit on my next trip back (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and Chatuchak Market, for example). And we admittedly spent one day in an air-conditioned mall shopping at H&M, eating Japanese ramen and watching Jobs. Which could have happened in any city around the globe.

My first visit to Bangkok was more about spending time with a really great group of travel buddies than seeing the sites.

From King’s Cup in the hostel lobby… (and that awful English drinking game I can’t get a handle on, The Witch)…


To wildly uncomfortable (but hilarious) tuktuk rides…


To seeing (a few) sites…




To a fail of a boat cruise (we boarded too late so most of the sites were closed)…




BangkokTo an impromptu, dumpling-filled visit to China town…IMG_8833



To making new kitty friends and playing Jenga with Polish people we just met…



To dancing until dawn on Koh San Road at “The Club”. And then leaving at four a.m. to hurriedly pack our bags and endure a 10-hour journey to Siem Reap without having slept a wink.

Koh San

Worth it.

Well Bangkok, I’ll be back. And the next time I stop by I’ll be giving you a much more thorough look. And try not to party quite so much.

Have you ever been to Bangkok? What did you think of it?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

36 thoughts on “Bangkok For Beginners”

  1. i completely understand your thoughts on the city ashley. it took me FOUR times to love bangkok. i hated it the first time. then i went to chiang mai and hated it more, so i kind of missed bangkok. over the course of my time in se asia, i felt myself strangely yearning to go back. and once i did, i stayed outside the city at an apartment (although i had a nice and cheap hostel when i was there the first time), went to movies, chilled out, worked out, and really fell in love with the real aspects of the city outside of the touristy parts. that is when i fell in love with bangkok actually! se asia was strange for me and not really my scene overall (too touristy with young backpackers puking everywhere), but i had fun almost in every single place i visited. some places just took longer than others ;) hope you enjoy next time around!

    • I definitely want to give it another shot! It seems like a great city for so many different reasons: food, great culture and history, and a big expat scene. Hopefully I’ll fall in love with it as well :)

  2. I felt kind of the same way about Bangkok (SO MANY RATS AND COCKROACHES). Not to mention every time i tried to take a taxi or tuk tuk I knew I was getting massively ripped off and the Grand Palace was so expensive and so crowded. But there were some fun nights to be had :)

    Also, do you shoot all your photos on the 50mm fixed lens? Your SE Asia photos have been AMAZING thus far.

    • Shopping and partying definitely seem like the best parts about being in Bangkok :). And thanks so much! I’ve been shooting almost only on the 50mm even though it can be frustrating at times… I just love the sharpness of the photos :)

  3. Heh. I can certainly see why you would think that. I loved Bangkok. It’s easy to get around on the MRT. And Bangkok does have some very nice hotels. You don’t HAVE to stay in rat infested hostels :).

    I stayed at Cha-Da for a week or so. Incredibly expensive by Bangkok standards at around $35 USD/night but every bit a 4 star hotel and nary a rat or cockroach to be found. A lot of the big hotels on Ratchadapisek are luxurious.

  4. As much as I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, I think I’ll be skipping Bangkok altogether during my upcoming trip to Thailand (first time). I feel like it should be a second trip to Thailand kind of local for me so I can babystep into the madness.

  5. I think Bangkok takes a few times to really learn how to fall in love with it. After you finish the touristy things and tire of Khao San Road, it’s so much more of a city, filled with little pockets of charm. Clean, though, it certainly is not!

  6. It’s awesome to see you in Bangkok! TYou look stunning and happy, glad you had a great time. That reminds me of my stay at Khao San road last year, it was craaaazy and I was eating pad thai all day long :)

  7. Cockroaches are rank and I don’t know anybody who can tolerate them.

    I LOVE my 50mm (equivalent) lens as well! I find with big cities there’s too many options and I get more out of it if I have specific goals on what I want to get out of it i.e art or food. That way I’m less distracted by the million things that go on.

  8. Your first time in Bangkok was not very successful and I can understand why. Too much of bad things. Many supposedly civilized places have some of the same.
    For instance the american South dealt with cockroaches for years, finally
    finding ways to get rid of them. When we were visiting in Bermuda, if you went
    into the kitchen at night, many coach roaches would fly at you. Not fun!!
    And rather disgusting…!

    Love, Gamma

  9. first time in bkk i could not wait to move on!! But the next time i enjoyed it more!! But i think Chiang Mai is a great place!! Really miss it!! lol

  10. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Bangkok. Cheap street food, warm weather, Khao San Road (which never sleeps)… granted the first night I spent in Bangkok wasn’t the most enjoyable (long story) but I’ve never found the place boring.

  11. I can TOTALLY understand some folks not liking Bkk..but I think that has a lot to do what side of Bkk you see. It’s so easy to only encounter the “touristy” side…but this city with close to (unofficially) 20 million inhabitants has SO much to offer..
    My advise for next time: 1. don’t get a room at Khao San’s the least Thai place in Thailand. 2. Visit a floating market, but not the touristy one..this one is for instance is great: 3. Visit the “Night Train Market..AKS Talad Rot Fai on the weekend: 4. Visit the Evening market at On Nut for dinner and drinks: 5. Visit the On Tor Kor market during the morning or early afternoon and have lunch there: 6. Eat at a foodcourt at a shoppingmall..especially the one at Terminal21 is really really good. Don’t eat at restaurants where mostly tourists go..go where Thai go..foodcourts, markets, hole in the wall restaurants and streetfood. 7. And finally,..for nightlife…go the Thai Way: google for bars and clubs with names like Taksura, Tuba, Moose, RCA, Route66, Nunglen. I guarantee..anyone whose’s done THESE things, cannot NOT like Bangkok ;-)
    Bye, Francis.

  12. I live in BKK for over a decade now. Too be fair to the city, you didn’t see much of it. If you stick to the rat race tourist crap and a daily hangover to swallow it all with, you will never like it. I Understand your reserves though, the rats here are huge and a lot of food here is prepared disgustingly. But claiming Siem Reap is nicer…..did you also take acid or something??

  13. Thailand and roaches go together like peas and carrots. :-)

    I was in Hat Yai one weekend. We had an incredible dinner and after eating I had to visit the bathroom. In the usual SE Asian fashion I had to walk through the kitchen to get to it. I heard “crunch, crunch” as I walked and saw the kitchen floor was covered in dead cockroaches. I found the “bathroom” which was merely a toilet behind a shower curtain in the kitchen. While I was in there I wondered why all of the roaches were dead. I finished and noticed the only sink in sight didn’t work.

    Before I got back to the table I saw a little girl sitting among the dead roaches, washing dishes in a bucket of black water and setting the plates, utensils, and glasses on the floor on top of the dead bugs.

    Somehow I survived the trip and enjoyed the rest of my weekend.

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